This information is applicable to the regular Physics PhD program. For the Physics – Planetary Sciences Track program information please click here.

Admission to Candidacy Status – Are you ready to enroll in dissertation hours?

In order for a student to obtain candidacy status, the student must:

  • Submit an approved Program of Study
  • Successful completion of both part I (written exam) and part II (oral exam) of the candidacy exam.
  • Form the initial dissertation advisory committee consisting of a chair, approved graduate faculty and graduate faculty scholars
  • Complete the required CITI Training & RCR workshops
  • Students must complete the majority of all course work prior to entering Candidacy Status.  This includes: 18 Credit hours of Required Core Courses, 3 credit hours of a Methods course, 9 credit hours of Formal coursework, and 27 credit hours of Remaining Electives.  Students can have no more than 6 credit hours of remaining coursework (outside of Dissertation hours) when applying for Candidacy.

Submit all the required forms to the Graduate Admissions Coordinator at for processing at least two weeks before the academic calendar deadline (final day for doctoral committee/candidacy forms to be submitted to Graduate Studies) of the semester that you wish to enroll in doctoral dissertation hours (for summer, use the first day of class for session C).

The Candidacy Exam consists of two independent parts, written and oral.

The written part is offered at least twice per year. The written candidacy exam comprises four parts, one for each of the following subjects: 1) Classical Mechanics, 2) Statistical Physics, 3) Electromagnetism, and 4) Quantum Mechanics.  At any given offering of the exam, each student will be offered four problems for each of the subjects the student is required to be examined on. The student must return the solution of three of these problems, of their choice. No books or notes can be consulted. Pocket calculators are allowed.  No communication between students is allowed during the exam.

For more information, refer to the Physics Candidacy Exam Rules and Guidelines (Updated Spring 2023)

The oral part of the exam is combined with the dissertation proposal (see candidacy information in the graduate catalog).  Students who pass the written candidacy exam (WCE) must complete the dissertation proposal by the summer of their third year in the doctoral program. The Department Chair may grant extensions for documented exceptional reasons.

The student’s doctoral dissertation committee consists of four (4) members (see candidacy information in the graduate catalog).  During and after the presentation, the committee members may ask any questions on any subjects.  Afterward, they decide amongst themselves whether to award a passing grade and what points to assign. Refer to the department candidacy exam forms for additional information about the oral part of the exam and the dissertation proposal.

Students who fulfill all candidacy requirements and pass the candidacy exam will gain post-candidacy status.